MARIA Sharapova of Russia in action during her first-round match against Croatia’s Donna Vekic at the Australian Open on Tuesday.—Reuters
MARIA Sharapova of Russia in action during her first-round match against Croatia’s Donna Vekic at the Australian Open on Tuesday.—Reuters

MELBOURNE: Top seed Rafael Nadal turned on the style as he launched his bid for a record-equalling 20th Major title at the Australian Open on Tuesday, but falling star Maria Sharapova hit a career low.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also cantered into the second round, but fourth seed Daniil Medvedev had to fight his way past American Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

Nadal, one shy of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark, dropped only five games as he swatted aside Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in just over two hours at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.

He joins Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic in round two as the Big Three look to tighten a stranglehold that has brought them all but one of the last 14 Australian Open titles.

But it’s a different story for five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova. The 32-year-old, playing on a wildcard as she wrestles with a shoulder injury, lost 6-3, 6-4 to Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic, making her an opening-round loser at three straight Grand Slams for the first time.

The future looks uncertain for the former world number one, who won Wimbledon when she was just 17 but has not reached a Grand Slam final since she lifted the 2014 French Open trophy.

Britain’s Johanna Konta, a two-time Slam semi-finalist, also fell at the first hurdle as she battles to overcome a knee problem, losing 4-6, 2-6 to unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

On a bumper day of 88 first-round matches, after rain wiped out half of Monday’s schedule, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both moved safely through.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, two sets down against America’s Reilly Opelka when their match was suspended on Monday, returned to win it in five after a stormy encounter when both players argued furiously with the umpire.

A new star emerged in 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, last year’s NextGen champion, who earned his first Grand Slam victory against Australia’s Max Purcell.

Australia’s Kyrgios, who has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the country’s deadly bushfire disaster, kept his notorious temper in check despite being taken to two tie-breaks in a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-1) win over Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Medvedev, the narrow loser to Nadal in September’s US Open final, dropped the second set against Tiafoe before recovering to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who has reached the last two French Open finals, went through in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino, while 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka needed four to get past Damir Dzumhur.

Seventh seed Alexander Zverev beat Marco Cecchinato in straight sets but there was disappointment for France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist, who retired with a back injury against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin.

Elsewhere, women’s fourth seed Simona Halep survived some painful-looking falls to beat America’s Jennifer Brady, and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber dropped only four games against Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy.

Air pollution from the bushfires disrupted the build-up to the year’s first Grand Slam, but after Monday’s heavy rain the skies were clear and sunny on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s results (prefix number denotes seeding):

Men’s singles:

First round: 1-Rafael Nadal (Spain) bt Hugo Dellien (Bolivia) 6-2, 6-3, 6-0; Federico Delbonis (Argentina) bt Joao Sousa (Portugal) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3); Peter Gojowczyk (Germany) bt Christopher Eubanks (US) 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 4-6, 6-0; 27-Pablo Carreno-Busta (Spain) bt Jozef Kovalik (SVK) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2); 23-Nick Kyrgios (Australia) bt Lorenzo Sonego (Italy) 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-1); Gilles Simon (France) bt Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) 6-1, 6-3, 6-3; Mikael Ymer (Sweden) bt Yasutaka Uchiyama (Japan) 6-4, 6-1, 6-2; 16-Karen Khachanov (Russia) bt Mario Vilella Martinez (Spain) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3; 10-Gael Monfils (France) bt Lu Yen-hsun (Taiwan) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2; Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) bt Vasek Pospisil (Canada) 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 7-5; Aljaz Bedene (Slovenia) bt James Duckworth (Australia) 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4; Ernests Gulbis (Latvia) bt 20-Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; 29-Taylor Fritz (US) bt Tallon Griekspoor (Netherlands) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3; Kevin Anderson (South Africa) bt Ilya Ivashka (Belarus) 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8); Alex Bolt (Australia) bt Albert Ramos (Spain) 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4; 5-Dominic Thiem (Austria) bt Adrian Mannarino (France) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2; 4-Daniil Medvedev (Russia) bt Frances Tiafoe (US) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2; Pedro Martinez (Spain) bt Dominik Koepfer (Germany) 6-3, 6-4, 7-5; Jaume Munar (Spain) bt Hugo Gaston (France) 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, 6-3; Alexei Popyrin (Australia) bt 28-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1, 0-0 — Tsonga retired; 19-John Isner (US) bt Thiago Monteiro (Brazil) 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5); Alejandro Tabilo (Chile) bt Daniel Elahi Galan (Colombia) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4; Andreas Seppi (Italy) bt Miomir Kecmanovic (Serbia) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3); 15-Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) bt Damir Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4; 11-David Goffin (Belgium) bt Jeremy Chardy (France) 6-4, 6-3, 6-1; Pierre-Hugues Herbert (France) bt Cameron Norrie (Great Britain) 7-5, 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4; Yuichi Sugita (Japan) bt Elliot Benchetrit (France) 6-2, 6-0, 6-3; 17-Andrey Rublev (Russia) bt Christopher O’Connell (Australia) 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); 26-Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia) bt Kwon Soon-woo (South Korea) 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; Fernando Verdasco (Spain) bt Evgeny Donskoy (Russia) 7-5, 6-2, 6-1; Egor Gerasimov (Belarus bt Casper Ruud (Norway) 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 4-6, 7-6 (10-6); 7-Alexander Zverev (Germany) bt Marco Cecchinato (Italy) 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3; Tennys Sandgren (US) bt Marco Trungelliti (Argentina) 6-1, 6-4, 7-5; Jordan Thompson (Australia) bt Alexander Bublik (Kazakhstan) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2; 12-Fabio Fognini (Italy) bt Reilly Opelka (US) 3-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5); Jannik Sinner (Italy) bt Max Purcell (Australia) 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 6-4; Tommy Paul (US) bt Leonardo Mayer (Argentina) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4; 31-Hubert Hurkacz (Poland) bt Dennis Novak (Austria) 6-7 (4-7), 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4; John Millman (Australia) bt Ugo Humbert (France) 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 1-6, 7-5; Filip Krajinovic (Serbia) bt Quentin Halys (France) 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 4-6, 7-5; Christian Garn (Chile) bt Stefano Travaglia (Italy) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; 32-Milos Raonic (Canada) bt Lorenzo Giustino (Italy) 6-2, 6-1, 6-3; 21-Benoit Paire (France) bt Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (Germany) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-0; Marin Cilic (Croatia) bt Corentin Moutet (France) 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; Michael Mmoh (US) bt Pablo Andjar (Spain) 6-1, 6-4, 6-4; 9-Roberto Bautista (Spain) bt Feliciano Lopez (Spain) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5; 14-Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) bt Lloyd Harris (South Africa) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2; Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Spain) bt Norbert Gombos (Slovakia) 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2; Marc Polmans (Australia) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (Kazakhstan) 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4; 24-Dusan Lajovic (Serbia) bt Kyle Edmund (Great Britain) 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Tatsuma Ito (Japan) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (India) 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.

Women’s singles:

First round: Polona Hercog (Slovenia) bt Rebecca Peterson (Sweden) 6-3, 6-3; Greet Minnen (Belgium) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Belarus) 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 7-5; 29-Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan) bt Bernarda Pera (US) 6-3, 6-2; 18-Alison Riske (US) bt Wang Yafan (China) 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3; 10-Madison Keys (US) bt Darya Kasatkina (Russia) 6-3, 6-1; Arantxa Rus (Netherlands) bt Magda Linette (Poland) 1-6, 6-3, 6-4; Nao Hibino (Japan) bt Shuai Peng (China) 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3; 22-Maria Sakkari (Greece) bt Margarita Gasparyan (Russia) 6-2, 6-2; Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) bt 12-Johanna Konta (Great Britain) 6-4, 6-2; Caroline Garcia (France) bt Madison Brengle (US) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-2; 23-Dayana Yastremska (Ukraine) bt Kaja Juvan (Slovenia) 6-1, 6-1; 27-Wang Qiang (China) bt Pauline Parmentier (France) 7-6 (7-2), 6-3; Fiona Ferro (France) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (Belgium) 6-2, 6-1; 6-Belinda Bencic (Switzerland) bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Slovakia) 6-3, 7-5; Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia) bt Liudmila Samsonova (Russia) 6-1, 6-4; 19-Donna Vekic (Croatia) bt Maria Sharapova (Russia) 6-3, 6-4; Alize Cornet (France) bt Monica Niculescu (Romania) 5-7, 6-1, 6-0; Catherine Bellis (US) bt Tatjana Maria (Germany) 6-0, 6-2; 20-Karolina Muchova (Czech Republic) bt Kirsten Flipkens (Belgium) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (10-7); 26-Danielle Collins (US) bt Vitalia Diatchenko (Russia) 6-1, 3-6, 6-4; Yulia Putintseva (Kazakhstan) bt Hsieh Su-wei (Taiwan) 6-1, 6-3; Harriet Dart (Great Britain) bt Misaki Doi (Japan) 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-6); 4-Simona Halep (Romania) bt Jennifer Brady (US) 7-6 (7-5), 6-1; 5-Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) bt Katie Boulter (Great Britain) 6-4, 7-5; Lauren Davis (US) bt Leylah Fernandez (Canada) 6-4, 6-2; Garbine Muguruza (Spain) bt Shelby Rogers (US) 0-6, 6-1, 6-0; Ajla Tomljanovic (Australia) bt 31-Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) 6-1, 6-1; Zarina Diyas (Kazakhstan) bt 21-Amanda Anisimova (US) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; Anna Blinkova (Russia) bt Jasmine Paolini (Italy) 7-5, 6-4; Arina Rodionova (Australia) bt Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukraine) 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-0; 9-Kiki Bertens (Netherlands) bt Irina Begu (Romania) 6-1, 6-4; Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) bt 15-Marketa Vondrousova (Czech Republic) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4; Camila Giorgi (Italy) bt Antonia Lottner (Germany) 6-3, 6-3; Priscilla Hon (Australia) bt Kateryna Kozlova (Ukraine) 6-3, 6-4; 17-Angelique Kerber (Germany) bt Elisabetta Cocciaretto (Italy) 6-2, 6-2; Laura Siegemund (Germany) bt Coco Vandeweghe (US) 6-1, 6-4; 2-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) bt Kristina Mladenovic (France) 6-1, 7-5.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020